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Long Branch’s Sam Mills Honored on New NFL Jersey

Al Bello/ALLSPORT (Getty Images)

An inspirational message from Jersey Shore native Sam Mills will be sewn into the collar of the Carolina Panthers jerseys next year.

The words “KEEP POUNDING” are part of the newly released NFL uniforms unveiled by Nike this week.

The phrase references an inspirational speech given to the team by Mills, a former player and later coach who continued to work throughout his cancer treatments.

Mills was born in Neptune City and was a standout wrestler and football player at Long Branch High School before heading to Montclair State University and eventually the NFL.

Originally playing with the New Orleans Saints, where he appeared in four Pro Bowls, Mills signed with the newly founded Carolina Panthers in 1994. As a respected veteran, Mills became a role model for the young Panthers squad.

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The venerable linebacker made another Pro Bowl squad as a Panther and also holds the NFL record for the oldest player to return a fumble for a touchdown.

Mills retired in 1997 and took a coaching position with the Panthers that year. He was diagnosed with intestinal cancer in 2003. Despite a bleak prognosis, Mills continued to coach while undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

During the Panthers’ 2003 Super Bowl run, Mills delivered a rousing speech to the team prior to a playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys.

“When I found out I had cancer, there were two things I could do — quit or keep pounding. I’m a fighter. I kept pounding. You’re fighters, too. Keep pounding!”

Mills died in 2005 at the age of 45. His number 51 jersey was the first to be retired by Carolina. His high school and NFL jerseys hang on the wall at Long Branch High School to this day. An award in his name is given out each summer at the US Army All-Shore Football Classic.

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